“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
Gratitude is the most important key to finding happiness in life. Its power is the miracle we are praying for. Gratitude strengthens our relationships, emphasizes positivity, and helps us learn and attract what we want from life.
Being aware of all the things we have been given in life puts us in a positive frame of mind, which is the ideal state for achieving success. Buddhists find countless reasons to be grateful every day.
The foundation of the belief system of Zen Buddhism is to place others higher on the priority list than themselves. In this way, they are grateful for everything others do for them.
Here are three Zen life lessons on gratitude:
1. The Blind Turtle
Life is a miracle, so we should all be grateful for this gift we have been given.
Zen teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer says that we take existence for granted, and this is why we are not grateful for it:
“We take our life, we take life, we take existence, for granted. We take it as a given, and then we complain that it isn’t working out as we wanted it to. But why should we be here in the first place? Why should we exist at all?”
Buddha compares gratitude to a blind turtle living at the sea bottom. It surfaces only once in a century to take a breath, and when he places his thin neck through the vast, foaming sea, his head goes through a golden yoke floating aimlessly on the ocean’s surface.
He said that, “when we realize how perfect everything is, we will tilt back our heads and laugh at the sky.”
2. Gratitude for Our Parents
Parenthood is a blessing, but it can be challenging at times.
Buddha says that there are two people we cannot repay easily in life, our mother and father.
He teaches that we cannot pay them back for all they have done for us, even if we carried them on each shoulder for 100 years.
3. The 10,000 Sorrows
Life is full of struggles and hardships, but we should not forget to be grateful even when we face difficulties. We should remember that negative experiences are valuable lessons.
Life comes with 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows, and it is up to us to focus on either on them.
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield learned Buddhism as a monk in Thailand, and explains that we learn the most in difficult times:
“In certain temples that I’ve been to, there’s actually a prayer that you make asking for difficulties. May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion. Imagine asking for that.”
Gratitude reminds us of the positive things in our life, helps us focus on what’s important, converts bad things into good ones, and teaches us to appreciate other people and thank them.
Remind yourself to be grateful today and every day.